AMERICA'S CUP UPDATE : NOTEBOOK : With King Aboard as 17th Man, Cubens Are Throne for a Loss

The exiled King Constantine of Greece, an avid sailor, was the 17th man aboard America 3 in its race Friday against Stars & Stripes.

"He thought that 17th man was the greatest thing," helmsman Buddy Melges said. "He thoroughly enjoyed his day, although it would have been better if we'd won.

"He gave me my gold medal in 1972 (when Melges won the Soling class at the Olympics). We chatted about that, and he talked about how he and (King) Juan Carlos (of Spain) were fighting it out in the Dragon (class) when he won his gold medal."

Melges was asked how he addressed the king.

"Your majesty--I mean, 'Your majesty, get your butt over here.' "

The America's Cup was on display Friday at event headquarters, One American Plaza, when New Zealand team chief Sir Michael Fay dropped in.

As Fay was about to leave, the building's fire alarm system went off and automatic doors slammed shut.

False alarm. Fay said he could wait another two months to collect the Auld Mug.

New Zealand team manager Peter Blake sent a peace feeler to Nippon skipper Chris Dickson, a fellow Kiwi whom he had called "a mercenary working for the Japanese, because they can't do it themselves."

Blake didn't deny his remarks but said, "They have been quoted completely out of context, and I have apologized to Chris.

"My remarks were made in connection with the match jury's decision on New Zealand's bowsprit. Chris had taken it upon himself to publicly advise New Zealand as to how it should handle that decision, and my response was in the context of his comments.

"I happen to have the highest regard for Chris Dickson's efforts and those of the Japanese team on the water here, and I have told them so."

Blake offered no apologies to Graeme Owens, the "wishy-washy" chairman of the challengers' jury, or to Tom Ehman, executive vice-president/general manager of the America's Cup Organizing Committee.

Blake had said Ehman "has been one of the people who have said they will jimmy the rules as much as they can. . . . He is one of the guys that appointed the second jury (which ruled against the Kiwis' use of their bowsprit).

"I am afraid to say there is something smelly in the cupboard. The Americans have stuffed it up so far as much as they possibly could."

The latter quotes, incidentally, were transcribed verbatim from Blake's interview with Radio New Zealand.

Owners of the ULDB 70 Association, fearful that some of their number will be caught up in the "speed at any cost" frenzy of the America's Cup, have banned exotic sail materials such as carbon fiber and liquid crystal.

The action was enthusiastically endorsed by Roy Disney Jr., believed to be the wealthiest of the 16 sled owners.

"Our boats race very equally right now," said Peter Tong, owner of Blondie and president of the association. "We have no interest in getting involved in an 'arms war.' "

Dennis Conner will be at the America's Cup Museum after today's race against Defiant to welcome 51 high school journalism students from around the country.

The students are participating in the AT&T; Sports Journalism Conference through next Tuesday. They're staying at Point Loma Nazarene College.

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